More than a dozen pro-democracy lawmakers announce their resignations from the Legislative Council during a news conference in Hong Kong Wednesday. Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA-EFE
Nov. 11 (UPI) -- All of Hong Kong's pro-democracy lawmakers resigned together Wednesday to protest a new law by China that allows for the removal of "unpatriotic" sitting legislators.
Fifteen lawmakers in Hong Kong's Legislative Council announced that they will resign after four of their colleagues were removed under the new measure, which was passed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, China's top legislative body.
The resolution stipulates that Hong Kong legislators will immediately lose their positions for infractions such as promoting independence and engaging in "unpatriotic" acts considered to threaten national security.
"We announce we will resign from our positions as our colleagues are being disqualified by the central government's ruthless move," Democratic Party Chairman Wu Chi-wai told reporters.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam immediately applied the new law to unseat pro-democracy legislators Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung.
The four were previously barred from running for re-election.
Wu said the new law effectively eliminates "separation of powers" under Hong Kong's Basic Law, established in 1997 after Britain relinquished control of the city to Beijing.
The Basic Law enshrines the concept of "one country, two systems," under which the city is guaranteed rights including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech not available in mainland China.
"All the power will be centralized in the chief executive -- a puppet of the central government," Wu said. "So today is the end of 'one country, two systems.'"
The mass resignation left Hong Kong's 70-seat Legislative Council with no opposition lawmakers.
The new law is the latest in a series of steps by China to intervene in Hong Kong affairs after a wave of pro-democracy protests last year. Beijing has since imposed a wide-ranging national security law and has allowed the local government to delay local elections for a year.